Swahili word(s) for the blog: Ninajifunza Mandaleo ya Jamii na Historia ya Afrika mashariki – I am studying community development and history of East Africa
Last year, when I started looking at study abroad programs, I knew I wanted to go somewhere unconventional. I did not even both looking at any programs in Europe because I honestly did not want to study abroad there. Any time I did a search for programs, I also checked the boxes for Asia and Africa, the two continents I knew I wanted to travel too. After that, I just had to find a program that adhered to my academic and personal interests. I chose CIEE’s Community Development, Culture, and Language program a) because of the location, and b) because of the abilities it provided for working with NGO’s. I also, of course, knew that this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity that I would never otherwise be exposed to.
The classes I chose to take include community development and history of East Africa and these classes are taught by Tanzanian professors from local colleges. The classes are taught in English and they follow a syllabus provided by CIEE. I chose to take these classes partially because I am interested in both topics and because I get credit for both of these classes respectively towards my two majors (History and International Affairs). Another reason I chose the community development class and a program tailored to learning about community development projects is because I considered community development as a possible future career. After taking the class, however, I learned that community development is not actually the field I am most interested in, and now I am considering master’s programs in international development or social work.
As part of the program, we are also required to take a research methods class and Swahili class Monday-Thursday. These two classes are taught by our program coordinator and program coordinator. Justin teaches research methods and will also be guiding us throughout the research project three of us will implement during the village stay. Paulo, an amazing linguistics teacher, has taught us an abundance of Swahili– enough to allow us to communicate to our homestay families for the next month as none of them speak English (wish me good luck).
Today was actually our last day of classes as we move to our village homestays for a month on Sunday. In the past two months, I have learned so much about community development and the history of the region. Our midterm exams were structured similarly to the exams I have taken at Wofford and all our classes were structured as lectures. Aside from the fact that our professors were Tanzanian, there is not much difference between classes here and the classes I have taken in the U.S. I do know however that our experience through the program is designed to be a bit more “Americanized,” in the sense that professors seek our input a lot more than they normally would from Tanzanian students. In this country, teachers are used to being in a room of at least fifty students, if not more. Teachers also rarely ask for questions or opinions from students as there are too many people in the room and not enough time. Personally, I’ve loved getting to know my two Tanzanian professors and they honestly have taught me and my peers so much about the respective topics.
As for our academic environment, I’ve mentioned in other blogs that CIEE students have a personal classroom. Compared to classes at Wofford, we’re always in the same classroom. This is because American semesters do not always line up with the Tanzanian school year; we also get our own classroom to have somewhere to store food and drinks, study or do homework and keep items in cubbies if needed. Even though we don’t meet fellow students in classes, we’ve made plenty of friends in the dorms, especially now because students are moving back in.
There aren’t really major differences between school here at Ruaha Catholic University and at Wofford. Having a dress code where we’re only allowed to wear skirts passed the knee is definitely very different, but it was not a huge adjustment. Dorm life is extremely similar; I have a roommate and we have communal showers and toilets (though since I am a senior this year I will return to Wofford hopefully in the village or in the apartments YAY). Aside from that, studying here wasn’t that big of an adjustment (except for the culture and limited food options that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs).
This Sunday will be the introduction to a new chapter of our study abroad experience. We will move to a district called Mufindi (still within Iringa) which is about three hours away. Each student will be placed with a homestay family, and no one speaks English. We will live with these families in the village for a month, and stay at an NGO on the weekends. There will definitely be blog updates from that experience, as long as we have service!